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Pete Gogolak

The American Football League established many Professional Football firsts: first black place kicker, Gene Mingo of the Broncos; first Hispanic-American quarterback, Tom Flores of the Raiders; first use of the two point conversion; first use of the scoreboard clock as the official game clock; first black quarterback of the modern era, the Bills' James Harris; etc.

Before the Bills signed Pete Gogolak in 1964, every placekicker in Professional Football was a "conventional" kicker; that is, they approached and kicked the ball straight-on, leading with the toe.  Gogolak, from Cornell University, revolutionized kicking by approaching the ball from the side, and kicking with the arch and instep, "soccer style".  Today, "soccer style" is conventional, and "conventional" placekickers are virtually non-existent.

The NFL had watched while the American Football League beat them to the punch in several areas: drafting star players away, like Billy Cannon and Billy Shaw; recruiting small colleges, signing black stars and giving them contracts commensurate with those of white players, which the NFL would not do; signing players the NFL had not recognized as great, like Don Maynard, George Blanda, and Jack Kemp; and paying a price the NFL balked at, for stars like Joe Namath.

In 1966, apparently tired of being one-upped by the AFL, and recognizing the potential of the new style of kicking, the NFL's Giants signed Pete Gogolak, even though he was under contract to the AFL's Bills.   That signing precipitated a frenzy of attempted signings of NFL stars by American Football League Commissioner Al Davis.  That increased activity eventually led to the merger of the NFL and the American Football League.

Gogolak's 1965 Topps football card


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